Thank you, John, for your very extensive and comprehensive replies. Alas, there appears to have been neither a military nor an industrial application for squibs in the seventeenth century.
Still, readers might be interested in the only physical description of a squib I could find that roughly approaches the time of the Mayflower incident. It is in the Oxford English Dictionary, illustrating a usage of 1673: “The irregular and wrigling motion of those fired Squibs that Boys are wont to make by ramming Gunpowder into quills.”
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